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Philosophy - Epistemology & Philosophy of Science | The Body as Object and Instrument of Knowledge

The Body as Object and Instrument of Knowledge

Embodied Empiricism in Early Modern Science

Wolfe, Charles T., Gal, Ofer (Eds.)

2010, X, 350 p.

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  • Gives an overview from worldwide distinguished philosophers about the role of the body in empiricism
  • Presents new insights in the works of philosophical giants like Locke, Galileo, Bacon, Lamarck, Berkeley, Spinoza and Hume
  • Offers an exploration of the keen interest in the body as both the object of research and as the subject of experience in the development of Empiricism

It was in 1660s England, according to the received view, in the Royal Society of London, that science acquired the form of empirical enquiry we recognize as our own: an open, collaborative experimental practice, mediated by specially-designed instruments, supported by civil discourse, stressing accuracy and replicability. Guided by the philosophy of Francis Bacon, by Protestant ideas of thisworldly benevolence, by gentlemanly codes of decorum and by a dominant interest in mechanics and the mechanical structure of the universe, the members of the Royal Society created a novel experimental practice that superseded former modes of empirical inquiry, from Aristotelian observations to alchemical experimentation.

This volume focuses on the development of empiricism as an interest in the body – as both the object of research and the subject of experience. Re-embodying empiricism shifts the focus of interest to the ‘life sciences’; medicine, physiology, natural history. In fact, many of the active members of the Royal Society were physicians, and a significant number of those, disciples of William Harvey and through him, inheritors of the empirical anatomy practices developed in Padua during the 16th century. Indeed, the primary research interests of the early Royal Society were concentrated on the body, human and animal, and its functions much more than on mechanics. Similarly, the Académie des Sciences directly contradicted its self-imposed mandate to investigate Nature in mechanistic fashion, devoting a significant portion of its Mémoires to questions concerning life, reproduction and monsters, consulting empirical botanists, apothecaries and chemists, and keeping closer to experience than to the Cartesian standards of well-founded knowledge.

These highlighted empirical studies of the body, were central in a workshop in the beginning of 2009 organized by the unit for History and Philosophy of Science in Sydney. The papers that were presented by some of the leading figures in this area are presented in this volume.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Bacon - Berkeley - Body - Early modern philosophy - Embodied Empiricism - Empiricism - Experiment - Hume - Locke - Philosophy of life science - Science and medicine - Spinoza - experimentation - philosophy of science - science

Related subjects » Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Table of contents 

1. Charles T. Wolfe and Ofer Gal, Embodied Empiricism THE BODY AS OBJECT 2. Hal Cook, Victories for Empiricism, Failures for Theory: Medicine and Science in the Seventeenth Century 3. Cynthia Klestinec, Practical Experience In Anatomy 4. Alan Salter, Early Modern Empiricism and the Discourse of the Senses 5. Victor Boantza, Alkahest and Fire: Debating Matter, Chymistry, and Natural History at the Early Parisian Academy of Sciences 6. Peter Anstey, John Locke and Helmontian Medicine THE BODY AS INSTRUMENT 7. Ofer Gal & Raz Chen-Morris, Empiricism Without The Senses: How the Instrument Replaced the Eye 8. Guido Giglioni, Mastering the Appetites of Matter. Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum 9. Justin E.H. Smith, ‘A Corporall Philosophy’: Language And ‘Body-Making’ In The Work Of John Bulwer (1606-1656) 10. Richard Yeo, Memory and Empirical Information: Samuel Hartlib, John Beale and Robert Boyle 11. Snait Gissis, Lamarck on Feelings: From Worms to Humans EMBODIED MINDS 12. John Sutton, Carelessness and Inattention: Mind-Wandering and the Physiology of Fantasy From Locke to Hume 13. Lisa Shapiro, Instrumental or Immersed Experience: Pleasure, Pain and Object Perception in Locke 14. Anik Waldow, Empiricism and its Roots in the Ancient Medical Tradition 15. Tobias Cheung, Embodied Stimuli: Bonnet’s Statue of a Sensitive Agent 16. Charles T. Wolfe, Empiricist Heresies In Early Modern Medical Thought

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